Originally created 11/17/06

Group hopes to save wetlands, deter floods



ATLANTA - A coalition of environmentalists and consumer advocates are urging Georgians to "Buy Dry Land" in a campaign that will begin this weekend in Richmond Hill.

The coastal kickoff will highlight problems organizers say are causing damage not only to the state's wetlands, but to unwitting consumers who buy homes in flood-prone areas.

"A wetland is a wetland forever," said Allison Wall, the executive director of consumer watchdog group Georgia Watch. "A wetland doesn't forget that it's a wetland."

The threat to wetlands and consumers comes from two angles, the groups say.

First, as developers look to build more and more coastal homes for retiring baby boomers, they could turn to wetlands that are filled in or drained to have room for the buildings.

"It's just almost a gold-rush kind of activity," said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for some of the environmental groups involved in the campaign.

Second, continued growth and development in metro Atlanta and other areas is replacing water-absorbing soil with roads, roofs and other surfaces that cause greater runoff to low-lying areas.

Savannah recently decided to offer homeowners in one neighborhood a buyout after residents complained about flooding after an industrial park was built nearby. The price tag for the city could reach $1.9 million, according to Savannah Morning News.

The harm to consumers comes in the form of homebuyers who see land that appears dry when they visit. Only later, sometimes years later, do they find out that continued or severe rainfall can cause that property to flood.

As part of the campaign, the group has created a Web site, www.buydryland.org, and will give residents who have already been affected by flooding yard signs to raise awareness.

Reach Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701 or brandon.larrabee@morris.com.